A £15 million mansion fit for a self-made tycoon or an upwardly mobile WAG
While the youth of the Kings Road and Loughton have featured in the reality shows Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex, their counterparts in Cheshire have yet to undergo the same social experiment. Having come across a fair few of their number though, I can only imagine their antics would result in television of comparable car crash proportions.
Cheshire itself is a county of contrasts: there’s the farming and hunting set and then there’s the new money. From the 1950s onwards an invasion of nouveau riche footballers and self-made business people came to Alderley Edge and Wilmslow and it is said that there are more Rolls-Royces per square mile here than anywhere else in the UK.
Though today’s Coronation Street actresses and Man United players generally favour brand new homes in Prestbury, the new wealth have not just consigned themselves to such. The likes of Take That’s Gary Barlow, for a time, owned Delamere Manor at Cuddington but sold it in 2005 due to his ever-growing commitments elsewhere. Equally, Neil Hamilton, whilst MP for Tatton, lived at The Old Rectory at Nether Alderley with his formidable wife Christine but when their days in politics came to an end, they too moved on. For a time, David and Victoria Beckham were the undoubted glitterati of this manor, but of those footballers still resident Wayne and Coleen Rooney are definitely now the best known.
In a “grey area between old and new” sits Swettenham Hall at Swettenham near Congleton. This 12,590 square foot Georgian mansion dates to 1795 but since it was acquired by Brian Kennedy, a double glazing, home improvements and mobile telephone entrepreneur, the house has been given a total makeover. The colourful style he’s given the house can best be described as being akin to: “Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen meets Austin Powers.”
Swettenham Hall is most definitely a party palace and along with the addition of a leisure wing consisting of a swimming pool, Jacuzzi®, plunge pool, steam room and gymnasium in 2004, Kennedy has also constructed a 47ft by 44ft helicopter hangar complete with a retractable helicopter pad.
Standing in 100 acres of grounds, the house does seem a tad expensive at £15 million especially since that the adjoining former farm buildings were sold off and converted into eight homes in 1999. The driveway is partly shared with these homes and for those seeking the ultimate in privacy, this could indeed be an issue. It is perhaps why Swettenham Hall has yet to sell.
Brian Kennedy is someone I hadn’t heard of until I came across Swettenham Hall but here is a fascinating man whose meteoric rise is frankly very clearly linked to windows. The son of a window cleaner from Edinburgh, this self-made tycoon started his career as a trainee manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland. He subsequently briefly worked as a trainee accountant but left when offered the chance to become youngest branch manager of Moben Kitchens at the age of 20.
At around this time, Kennedy acquired a stake in Farouche Kitchens and with a Rochdale born property entrepreneur named David Russell, he was transformed from a door-to-door salesman to a pioneer in direct sales. In 1988, when Farouche was sold, Kennedy netted circa £1 million. From here, this entrepreneur returned to his family’s roots by venturing into double glazing with Weatherseal Windows and then home improvements with Space Kitchens & Bedrooms.
In 1999, with the help of funds raised by private equity investors 3i, Kennedy paid £42 million for the well known brand Everest but sold part of his stake to the management for £63 million in 2003. In due course he added to his shareholding and then sold 21.5% of the company to Hutton Collins in a deal which valued the company at £150 million in 2007.
Ever the empire builder, Kennedy paid £29 million for a conservatory manufacturer named Ultrafame in 2006 and then also added another double glazing brand, Zenith Staybrite, to his portfolio in 2008. Many other business ventures followed but not being afraid to diversify, Kennedy formed Patrick Properties, whose portfolio is now valued in excess of £100 million, in 2002 and Kennedy Renewables, which specialises in wind energy, in 2009.
In the technology sector, a chance conversation in a Knutsford wine bar in 1995 led to him venturing into the mobile telephone market with a company named Genesis Communications. The business was sold to Dixons in 2002 for £31 million.
In January 2012, Kennedy merged his main Latium Holdings business with Jim Rawson’s Epwin Group to form Epwin Holdings. The merger resulted in a company with more than 2,500 employees and brands numbering Spectus, Swish, CET and Kestrel.
Of his success, Kennedy states:
“Business is common sense [and] dealing with people is common sense. I don’t think I have any particular flair. I think it is about common sense, taking the opportunity when it comes and hard work.”
Brian Kennedy’s wealth has allowed him to indulge many of his passions. A period of semi-retirement “drove [him] and [his] kids nuts,” but this Scotsman’s love of rugby resulted in him acquiring the Sale Sharks Rugby Club in 1999. He is said to have set the “club on a sound financial footing” and turned it into “one of the leading rugby clubs in Britain.”
Philanthropy is something that Kennedy, a Jehovah’s Witness, has also dedicated his wealth to. Through his Brian Kennedy Trust, he has supported a number of charities and organisations but it is for his role as the main backer of Find Madeleine Fund that he has come to public attention. Of his reasoning for backing the missing child’s parents financially, he stated:
“In light of the quite literally incredible accusations against Gerry and Kate McCann, which are clearly exacerbating their emotional torture, I felt compelled to offer, along with other like-minded businessmen, financial support and the full logistical support of the Latium team. That support is principally our in-house lawyer Ed Smethurst and [official spokesman] Clarence Mitchell.”
Kennedy’s donation attracted much press attention in 2007 in the weeks following Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and he continues to support them to this day. A very public spat involving him, Gerry and Kate McCann and a campaigner named Tony Bennett, who also was involved in The Madeleine Foundation, has been the subject of various legal actions. In October 2011, Mr Bennett was forced to publicly apologise to Mr Kennedy and separately an August 2009 Evening Standard article by Mark Hollingsworth “investigat[ing] the investigators,” was pulled because for “legal and editorial reasons.” In it, “someone who worked closely with [Kennedy]” was quoted as saying:
“He was appalled by the Portuguese police, but he also had visions of flying in by helicopter to rescue Madeleine.”
Angelina Jolie, another avid aviator, once commented: “Wherever I am I find myself looking out of the window wishing I was somewhere else.” We do not know why Brian Kennedy is selling Swettenham Hall, but Jolie is indeed one of the few with the resources to take these particular windows off his hands.
For more information about Swettenham Hall, Swettenham, Congleton, Cheshire, CW12 2JZ, contact Edward Welton of Knight Frank on +44 (0) 20 7861 1114.
For more details about Brian Kennedy, go to: http://www.brian-kennedy.co.uk